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Evaluating Communications To Special Populations

Historical Document

This document is provided by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) ONLY as an historical reference for the public health community. It is no longer being maintained and the data it contains may no longer be current and/or accurate.

Formative research findings may reveal special communications needs of the audiences you're trying to reach with prevention information and education. For example, it may be important to tailor content, layout, and use of visuals to the needs of a reader with poor reading and communication skills. What does this mean in concrete terms? Low-literacy experts have identified key principles for developing effective materials for this audience. These principles are summarized in the checklist below. You can use this list as you are developing a new publication and doublechecking product drafts.

Checklist: Key Principles of Effective Low-Literacy Print Materials
(Gatson and Daniels 1988)


Peer language is used whenever appropriate to increase personal identification and improve readability.
___ The material is interactive and allows for audience involvement.
___ The material presents "how-to" information.
___ Words are familiar to the reader. Any new words are defined clearly.
___ Sentences are simple, specific, direct, and written in the active voice.
___ Each idea is clear and logically sequenced (according to audience logic).
___ The number of concepts is limited per piece.
___ The material uses concrete examples rather than abstract concepts.
___ The text highlights and summarizes important points.


___ The material uses advance organizers and headers.
___ Headers use simple and close to text.
___ Layout balances white space with words and illustrations.
___ Text uses upper and lower case letters.
___ Underlining or bolding rather than caps give emphasis.
___ Type style and size of print are easy-to-read; type is at least 12 point.


___ Visuals are relevant to text, meaningful to the audience, and appropriately located.
___ Illustrations and photographs are simple and free from clutter and distraction.
___ Visuals use adult rather than childlike images.
___ Illustrations show familiar images that reflect cultural context.
___ Visuals have captions. Each visual illustrates and is directly related to one message.
___ Different illustration styles, such as photographs, shaded line drawings, and simple line drawings, are pretested with the audience to determine which is understood best.
___ Cues, such as circles or arrows, point out key information.
___ Colors used are appealing to the audience (as determined by pretesting).


___ Readability analysis is done to determine reading level.

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